London’s public transport could ‘grind to a halt’ without cash injection

Transport for London (TfL) has been struggling with its finances since the start of the pandemic after passenger numbers across the network dropped to lows not seen since the Victorian era at the height of lockdown.

In January, it said the Government would need to provide two years of additional financial support to keep it afloat, just months after it was given a £1.7bn bailout package to finance it until March this year.

Now, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) has called for a fresh injection of cash for London’s bus, tube and road budgets to keep services running with the same frequency as they currently do.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also warned that bus services could be reduced by a fifth and Tube services by almost 10 per cent without urgent Government investment because of a £1.9bn funding gap.

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, said that services would “grind to a halt” without sufficient funding from central Government.

“It’s frankly disgusting that Boris Johnson is playing Russian roulette with the future of public transport in London,” he said.

“We understand that with just a few short weeks left of the current financial support package from the Government no discussions are planned about the additional money TfL needs to keep services running, as passenger numbers have yet to recover from pre-pandemic levels. 

“Johnson may talk a good game when it comes to dealing with the challenges of climate change but failing to adequately fund public transport shows that his decarbonisation credentials are yet more hot air.

“The Government must step up to the plate before TfL services start grinding to a halt. It’s that simple.”

While passenger numbers on the London Underground have risen substantially from the lows seen at the peak of the UK lockdowns, even by August they had only recovered to 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels on weekdays, and 60 per cent at weekends.

Furthermore, with many people still working from home, or adopting a hybrid working approach, weekday passenger numbers may never reach the levels seen prior to the pandemic.

The financial difficulties also come as Crossrail, which will introduce the Elizabeth Line to the London Underground network, has repeatedly breached its budget and currently faces a £150m shortfall.